The design and development process for websites
There are several steps that need to be incorporated into the development of a website. These start with the initial gathering of information, to website creation, and finally end with maintenance and updating in order to make sure that the content of your website is current.
The process involved in web design varies from designer to designer. However, the outlines are usually the same regardless of who you have commissioned to design your website:
- Gathering information
- Focus group testing and delivering
Phase 1: Gathering information
Gathering information is the first and most obvious step in designing a website successfully. There are several things that you need to take into account when deciding on the look and feel of your website.
This step is actually one of the most essential as it requires that you firmly understand the company that the website is going to be created for. You need to know, as a business, what your future business aspirations and goals are, and how you can use this website that is going to be designed to further these aspirations and goals.
One way to tell that a web designer is successful is if they start off by asking several questions about the core of your business in order to understand what it is exactly you need in a website.
There are several things that you need to take into account:
The purpose of your website
You need to discuss with your designer what your website is going to be offering to users, be it information, products for sale, or services being promoted.
Goals you intend to achieve through the website
Need to know exactly what you wish to accomplish by putting together this website. Some common goals include sharing information or generating new business.
You intend to target
You need to know there is a specific group of people who you are targeting in order to reach your goals. You need to have a firm picture of the ideal candidate that would visit your website. You need to know everything about said person, be it sex, age, or interests. This will make things much easier later on when you want to decide on an ideal style for your website.
The target audience needs to be offered relevant information when they navigate to your website. Information about particular products and services or general information need to be offered in an organised an easy-to-understand fashion.
Phase 2: Planning your website
After you have a firm grasp of the information needed to create your website, you need to work out a plan in order to piece your website together. The site map is usually developed during this stage.
Essentially, the site map is a visual representation that shows all of the main areas of interest on your website as well as any sub-areas that may be included if they apply to your particular site. This stage is absolutely essential to creating a navigational system for your site that is consistent and easy to understand. You always need to keep your end-user in mind when designing your website. These people will be navigating to your site in order to buy your product or learn more about your service offerings. By offering them this information in an easy-to-understand interface, you appeal to their wants and needs.
Your web designer will also help you to choose technologies that will be implemented during this planning phase. E-commerce, interactive forms, flash, and other such implementations should all be discussed when you plan your website during this phase.
Phase 3: Designing your website
After you have gathered the necessary information and outlined a sitemap for your website, it is time to decide on a specific look and feel for your website.
One of the main factors when deciding on a specific look and feel is the kind of target audience that you will be aiming for. For example, a website that is targeting financial institutions will usually look quite different to a website that is designed for teenagers looking to kill time. During this phase, you need to find elegant ways to incorporate your company logo and colours for powerful branding and fortification of your company identity on the site.
Usually, during this phase, several prototype designs will be created by your web designer in the form of a JPEG image that illustrates what the final look and feel of your website will be. In many cases, these mockups will be sent via email. Meanwhile, some developers take things a step further and provide you with a closed off section of their own website where you can view your own website being developed as a work in progress.
Either way, it is absolutely crucial that you get to see the website throughout the design and development stages. This is so that you have an opportunity to express whatever concerns you have about the site design while they are still under development.
Communication between your designer and yourself is absolutely key during this phase in order to ensure that the final product will match the tastes and needs that you were aiming for initially. You need to exchange ideas, work closely with your designer, and reiterate until you achieve a satisfactory final design for your website.
Phase 4: Developing your website
This is the phase where actual life gets blown into your website. All of the individual graphic elements that were portrayed during the prototype are used to create a functioning website during this phase.
Usually, this is done using a snowball approach, where the homepage is first developed followed by a shell for interior pages. This shell contains all the navigational elements of your website as well as a means to add and edit content. The shell serves as a template that can be distributed throughout the website in appropriate areas using in accordance with the previously developed sitemap.
None repeating elements such as flash animations, interactive contact forms, and shopping carts are also implemented during this phase.
It is absolutely essential that your designer continues to communicate with you during this phase providing you with an in progress feed of all of the happenings that are going on while your website is being developed. So that you have additional opportunities to that you want to have done on your website.
From a technical point of view, ensuring that a website is successfully designed needs to be done via proper technical implementation. This means using CSS and XHTML that complies with recent web standards in order to increase accessibility, maximise functionality, and cater to as wide an audience as possible.
Phase 5: Testing your website
During this phase, the finishing touches are attended to. Things such as ensuring the smooth functionality of scripts and forms as well as testing for minor compatibility issues are usually done in order to ensure that your website renders properly in most recent versions of browsers.
The mark of a successful web designer is that they are well-versed in the most up-to-date standards for development and design. The basic technologies that are currently being employed are CSS and XHTML. Your website designer can ensure that your website checks out by ensuring that your code is completely validated for things such as cross browser compatibility.
After you give the okay for the final design, your website is delivered. Using FTP, the files for your website are uploaded to your server. To do this, you need to have web hosting and domain name registration. After these formalities are done, your website is updated to the server and checked one final time. This is usually a precautionary check in order to ensure that all of the files have been correctly uploaded and the site is completely functional.
This phase means that your website has been successfully launched to the public.
Phase 6: Maintaining your website
Once your website has been uploaded, this does not mark the end of your web development endeavours. One of the best ways to continue grabbing the attention of your users is to offer new products and content regularly. Usually, web developers are more than happy to continue working together with you in order to update the information on your website and review your design. Many web designers offer various maintenance plans that have reduced rates depending on how often you plan on changing or adding things to your website.
If you intend to update your own content, you can utilise a content management system that is basically a WYSIWYG implementation that can be changed even without technical knowledge.
By using a CMS, you can ask as a backend administrative area and use an online text editor to change existing content to your particular site. You can even add new pages and new content completely on your own.